Although Barcelona has been on my list for quite a while, the trip itself was quite spur of the moment. I ended up having three days off from work, so I used Skyscanner to search the dates I had off with the cheapest flights I could find.
The very cheapest flights I found were actually for Toulouse in France, but I spent a little more because Barcelona is somewhere I actually wanted to go... (No offense, Toulouse! I'm sure you are beautiful in your own right!)
I booked my flights, booked a hostel, and packed my bags! I didn't arrive until quite late but that didn't seem to matter as there are night buses that run from the Airport to the city center for only €2.15.
Barcelona was very hit and miss for me. I can pretty much pinpoint where I went wrong, and I'm sure if I had more time and did more research my short trip would have been flawless. So I'm going to share some tips with you to hopefully make your vacation picture-perfect.
1. DO NOT stay at No Limits Hostel in Barcelona.
I stayed at the No Limits Hostel Sagrada Familia, and they have a second property in Barcelona too. The location is stellar in the sense that it is literally a 2 minute walk from the hostel to Sagrada Familia. The downside of this is that the location is SUPER loud. It was also really hard to find, with no signage at all, just a little call button to get buzzed in. The hostel is run down, no air conditioning, no fans, no airflow whatsoever. The showers on my floor were out of service, and when I went to a different floor to shower the water was ice cold. Spend a little more money and stay somewhere with more to offer. And while staying so close to Sagrada Familia is pretty cool, it also means you are pretty far from the other places to see, like Park Güell, the Gothic Quarter, and Barceloneta.
2. DO NOT buy from the counterfeit sidewalk vendors.
You will see them mostly around the major attractions, like Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. They lay out white sheets or open umbrellas full of items to buy, and for really low prices. I don't think you would actually get arrested for buying from them, but the vendors are selling illegally. When they see or hear the police patrols they pick up their sheets and run.
3. DO NOT go to Sagrada Familia or Park Güell before your scheduled visit time.
They are very strict about letting people into these attractions, and even if you are a mere ten minutes early, they will turn you away and tell you to come back. I am always early for everything, and when I showed up at Park Güell an hour before my scheduled ticket time, I had a lot of time to kill. Plan ahead, and while you don't want to be late, you also don't want to waste precious holiday time waiting pointlessly.
4. DO NOT be afraid to take the metro.
It is super easy, fairly inexpensive, and a great option when you are crunched for time like I was. If you know you are going to be using it pretty often, you can buy a T10 Transport Ticket for €9.95 and it gets you ten journeys, and saves you quite a bit of money!
5. DO NOT worry about not knowing the language.
The primary language in Barcelona is Catalan, and most people also speak Spanish. But I never had an issue speaking English with the locals. From shop owners, attraction attendants, bus drivers, hostel staff, Starbucks employees... they all spoke English. While I do love learning the local language and I tried to use it as much as possible, it definitely isn't necessary to make your way around Barcelona.
1. DO buy your tickets for Sagrada Familia and Park Güell ahead of time.
This goes for any other attractions that you may be interested in. Especially in the summer months, you could wait hours before the next time slot becomes available if you don't plan ahead. You can buy tickets and select your time slot online, and they are a bit cheaper too. Park Güell is also free to enter after 9.30pm, but they still have to limit the number of people in the Monument Zone so be there on time if you want to visit for free!
2. DO wear sunscreen and stay hydrated!
This should be a no-brainer. But it is very sunny and very hot in Barcelona, and the last thing you want to do is burn to a crisp or faint from dehydration.
3. DO spend a day wandering through the Gothic Quarter.
It is truly magical walking through the streets of the Gothic Quarter. With all the narrow streets, beautiful architecture, and cute little cafes around every corner, it is easy to spend hours winding your way through these streets. Highlights while in this area are definitely the Barcelona Cathedral and the Bridge of Sighs.
4. DO be wary of pickpockets.
Barcelona is kind of notorious for it's pickpockets. I fortunately did not have any issues while I was here, but I was also very careful with my belongings. Be cautious of where you store your phone and valuables while you are out and about and you should be fine.
5. DO enjoy tapas!
If you try anything local, let tapas be it! It's delicious, it's cheap, and it's the perfect portion size. You would be hard pressed to find a truly bad tapas place, and they are scattered everywhere throughout the city.
Barcelona is truly a beautiful city, and I hope that one day I have the chance to return and enjoy every minute of it. It is crazy how one little detail of a trip, like a crappy hostel, can affect the overall feel of a holiday. I am still so glad I went, because I got to see two things that we on my bucket list!
I hope this quick snapshot of Barcelona do's and don'ts was helpful! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I'll be sure to answer them the best I can!
Until next time, happy travels!